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Clinton to Create Economic Council : Transition: President-elect focuses on a major shift in White House structure as Cabinet appointments take a back seat. A business summit in Arkansas is planned.

November 09, 1992|DOUGLAS JEHL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Apart from working to elevate economic affairs to new status within the coming Administration, the officials said that an urgent short-term priority would be to help find ways to reduce the size of the White House staff by 25%, as Clinton pledged during the campaign.

Those tasks may prove contradictory, however, if the new Economic Security Council is in fact modeled after the National Security Council, whose authority is derived in part from the expertise of its large and accomplished White House-based staff.

Although neither Christopher nor Jordan was willing to say exactly what role the council would perform, other aides said that it would almost certainly include secretaries of Treasury, Commerce and Labor; the director of the Office of Management and Budget, the U.S. trade representative and the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

As a top-ranking assistant to the President, the new economic security adviser would convene meetings among representatives of the various departments and have authority to coordinate policies among them. Clinton likely would preside over formal Cabinet-level Economic Security Council meetings, just as the President has always headed its 44-year-old national security counterpart, officials said.

"Bill Clinton has said that this is a big priority, and I'm sure that he will carry that out," Jordan said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

The plans sketched by Jordan and Christopher left little doubt that the White House economic security post will become one of the most important jobs in the new Administration, and it fanned a wave of speculation about who might be named to the post.

Clinton aides said that a likely front-runner is Robert B. Reich, a Harvard University economist who has known the Arkansas governor since their days at Oxford University. Other possible candidates include economic consultant Ira Magaziner and Ken Brody, a New York investment banker.

After leaving Little Rock for a weekend of rest and relaxation, Vice President-elect Al Gore and other Clinton aides are scheduled to return here today to get on with the transition process in earnest.

But Clinton, who confessed that he had been too worn out in the first two days after the election to read much other than fiction, gave little impression of haste.

Pausing to talk with reporters after a Sunday morning run, he said that his own exhaustion and painfully hoarse voice had made it difficult for him to return the scores of phone calls he has received since winning election. He said that he and his wife, Hillary, for the most part had "sort of sat around and talked to each other and tried to get collected."

Asked what his first order of business will be as he returns to work today, the President-elect, whose weight fluctuated during the campaign, said: "I'm going to get up and take a run. I'm going to get myself back in shape."

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